Text by Tom Richardson of New England Boating and New England Fishing
Thirty years ago, most recreational boaters gave Belfast Harbor a wide berth, and it wasn’t hard to tell when you were getting close, even in pea-soup fog. From the 1950s to the mid-1980s, Belfast was one of the biggest producers of meat chickens, as well as a major sardine landing and processing center. Offal from both industries was dumped directly into the harbor, to rot and float in and out with the tides. The stench traveled for miles on the prevailing breeze.
Belfast has cleaned up its act since those odiferous times, and now more boaters are discovering this beguiling harbor in the northwest corner of Penobscot Bay. Leading the charge is Front Street Shipyard, which has grown into one of the largest marine service facilities on the East Coast. The facility repairs, constructs and restores everything from mega-yachts to classic wooden vessels. It also welcomes transients, who can take advantage of the friendly facility’s showers, fuel dock, restrooms, ship’s store and other amenities—all within steps of the downtown shops and restaurants.
Overnight dockage with fuel, ice, showers and pump-out is also available through the city’s harbormaster, as is short-term tie-up for those who just want to go ashore for a few hours and explore the revitalized downtown.
Shops, galleries and boutiques selling everything from shoes to jewelry to designer clothes line the local streets and occupy stately brick buildings from Belfast’s initial heyday, all within easy walking distance of the harbor. If you enjoy craft brews, stop by the Marshall Wharf Brewing Company, where you can enjoy a wide variety of fresh-brewed ales. Next door is Three Tides restaurant, which serves great food in a funky, artsy atmosphere.
Just across the harbor is the venerable Young’s Lobster Pound, where you can dock then dine on Maine’s signature crustacean (along with just about any other type of seafood you might crave) on picnic tables overlooking the scenic harbor. You can also buy live lobsters to take with you on your voyage.
If you’d like to explore the town on foot, a convenient walking trail with plaques describing noteworthy historic sites winds along the waterfront. And be sure to stroll along the footbridge spanning the mouth of the Passagassawakeag River at the head of the harbor.
Another major advantage of staying in Belfast for a few days is that the city makes a convenient home base for side trips to other local destinations, including Camden, Castine, Rockland, Islesboro and the Penobscot River.